A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report ranking Doha the 12th most polluted city in the world has spurred several young people in Qatar to begin working on the country’s environmental record.
In the light of the report, a locally-founded group that holds events and offers services to young people here will host a Qatar-focused conference on World Environment Day next week.
The Youth Company’s (TYC) #TalkDirty event, which is being held under the auspices of the Ministry of Environment, will take place at the Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) Student Center in Education City on June 5, from 6 to 9pm.
A host of speakers and interactive discussions will take place, in hopes of encouraging Qatar’s residents to become more environmentally conscious.
Speaking to Doha News, Steve Stelljes, TYC’s executive director, said the conference will be the beginning of many environment-related events. He continued:
“The conversation started when the report was released. We got the team together and realized that we needed to do something to tackle the problem on a long-term basis. So we’re trying to get together governmental bodies, major corporations and the young generation together to solve the problem. Those are the three main ingredients for sustainable change.”
Pollution has been increasing in Qatar for the past several years. A 2011 government report cited the sand and dust created by the manufacturing industry and the rising number of construction projects, as well as increasing road congestion, as the main issues.
Currently, Qatar is the only Arab country to be listed in WHO’s top 20 most polluted cities in the world, in terms of concentration of fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less (PM 2.5). Doha is ranked as having the 12th highest concentration at 93 ug/m3, against the world average of 71 ug/m3, according to the WHO report.
Al Wakrah is ranked 25th on the same list.
Bahrain, in comparison, clocks in at 44 – 66 ug/m3, and Oman at 31 ug/m3.
PM 2.5 particles are especially dangerous as their small particulate size allows them to penetrate the respiratory tract and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and respiratory infections like lung cancer.
To tackle pollution problems, the conference plans to focus on issues such as biodiversity, living a green lifestyle, bird and reptile life, controlling air quality, sustainability in the hospitality industry and innovative light solutions.
Estimated to attract around 500 participants, the conference is the first stage in opening discussion on the matter, focusing predominantly on informing and inspiring youth. Subsequent events will be more action-oriented.
But the ultimate goal is to push people to go beyond meetings and take action, said Mohamed Farid, TYC’s chairman and founder. Speaking to Doha News, he said:
“This is not another conference where all we do is talk. This is the launch of a yearlong commitment to get youth engaged and involved with their country.”
In addition to working with the MOE, conference organizers have signed on the W Doha, the Dutch embassy, and SuperTech, SolaTube, and the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI).
Student organizations including Engineers Without Borders and the Society of Women Engineers will also be part of the conversation.
According to Stelljes, while initial response has been generally positive, there are still some hurdles to talking about environmental issues in Qatar.
“We reached out to a lot of corporations, but we lack accessibility to them. There is a lack of sponsorship when it comes to the environment. We hope that we can change that through this initiative and garner more support from organizations.”
All are invited to attend the conference. Registration is free and can be done online here.